Wastewater reuse in Lebanon: Shedding light on hydro-social politics at multiple scales

Karim Eid-Sabbagh
Independent researcher, Tyre, Lebanon; eid.sabbagh.karim@gmail.com

ABSTRACT: Through an analysis of wastewater reuse in Lebanon, this paper investigates the socio-spatial politics of wastewater management. I analyse (some) of the complexities and contradictions at play in the scalar politics of water reuse. Drawing on empirical work in Lebanon, I aim to add a perspective from the Global South to this line of analysis, reading scalar politics through the wider framework of imperialism. The history of water and wastewater resource management in Lebanon is marked by a governance process that has been in permanent crisis, shaped by contestation in various ways and at multiple scales. This governance process is characterised by a structural lack of coherence unfolding in a context of political competition, class conflict, and englobing imperial domination. These pressures have manifested in radically neoliberal policies and recurring war. The scales through which wastewater, and eventually treated wastewater, reuse are managed emerge from the contradictory interventions of international development actors interacting with Lebanese administrations and the concomitant undermining of Lebanese state sovereignty. Two case studies of treated wastewater reuse in the Bekaa Valley will further illustrate these processes.

KEYWORDS: Imperialism, scale, potential, treated wastewater reuse, Lebanon